Rick Desorda

Rick Desorda

Rick Desorda, beloved husband, father, brother, teacher, and friend to many, many people, died suddenly on January 2, 2021.  He was born in Burlington on June 3, 1953, and during the first six months of his life lived at St. Joseph’s Orphanage.  He was adopted on Christmas Eve 1953 by Barbara and Francis Desorda, and spent his life in Bristol, Vermont, graduating from Mt. Abraham Union High School in 1971, where he participated each year in soccer, basketball, and baseball.

With a strong desire to be a teacher, Rick graduated from Johnson State College in 1975 with a degree in History.  He began his teaching career at Mt. Abraham in September 1975, retiring in June 2014. Along the way, he also completed a Master’s Degree at Castleton State College.  Rick loved working with “the youth of America,” as he called his students, and because of this he continued working with teenagers after retirement by officiating soccer and umpiring baseball,  right up to the time of his death.

Rick had a quick wit and left us laughing almost nonstop. Hardly a disciple of fellow native Vermonter Calvin Coolidge, he was uproariously talkative, with a great sense of comic timing. His ability to distill someone’s or something’s  essence into an incisively exact phrase gave rise to hilarity in and out of the classroom.  His sense of humor included satirical notes, but his ribbing was directed at himself as much as at anyone else. He was also kind, thoughtful, compassionate, and patient.  He is sorely missed, and those who love him are devastated by his death.

He not only loved working with his students, he respected and learned from them.  He prized critical thinking, good writing and articulate discussion, independence, hard work and initiative. His unfailing efforts to encourage students to express themselves clearly and thoughtfully inspired students to meet and exceed his high expectations.  A great storyteller, he brought the past into the present with vivid descriptions and fantastic analogies. The spontaneity of his humor, his glee at watching students recreate moments in history, his collection of Newsweek magazines detailing the entire course of Watergate, his love of books—all these deep enthusiasms and interests coalesced into an unforgettable presence, an unforgettable teacher.  And his greatest joy was to oversee the immediate and recurring experience of a classroom full of laughter, open discourse and genuine insights from his students. He had faith in the ability of every young person, without respect to background or disposition, to change in positive ways and to demonstrate integrity and intelligence. Students responded by giving him equal respect and love. If you were in his class, you were privileged to be included in a true community of scholars. The train of former students down the years who love and appreciate him attest to his indelible mark.

Family was very important to Rick, and he was the best husband and father anyone could ask for.  He leaves behind his wife, Sandy, and his three sons, Bill, Joe, and Jim.  He is also survived by his sisters Laurie Darling (Ed), and Cindi Smith (Creighton), his mother-in-law Kay, his brothers-in-law Bob, Tom, and Ed, his sister-in-law Laurie, and several nieces, nephews and cousins.  A few years ago, he connected with his birth siblings for the first time and is survived by his birth brother Rodney and his half-sister Kathy. 

If anyone would like to make a donation in his name, his two favorite charities are the Have-a-Heart Food Shelf in Bristol and Homeward Bound in Middlebury.

A private Mass for Rick will be held on Saturday, January 9, but because of Covid,  only family and close friends are able to attend.  A post-Covid memorial service will be held at a later date.

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Joe Gonillo - VSOA Secretary/Treasurer
3 years ago

Our heart-felt condolences to the entire family. His brothers and sisters in the VSOA will miss Rick on the field, in the car, at Grievance Committee meetings, at our annual Fitness Test, and at our annual summer meeting. Rick’s calm demeanor officiating VT high school soccer over the last 40 years is a perfect training manual not only for new referees, but also veterans and those needing a refresher course as to why we ref soccer. I speak personally having done many games with him since 1989 and also for the rest of our membership. There will be a void in our group this coming season and in the future. Rick’s ability to mentor, befriend, advise, and share stories helped us all become better referees. He will be dearly missed…..

Kurt Haigis
3 years ago

I will certainly miss Rick and will always look for him in my travels to Vermont scholastic soccer games near and far.

My condolences to his family and friends that I did not know.

Mary Bingham
3 years ago

Rick was indeed an icon in Bristol. He always had a smile and a caustic remark that made me smile. RIP Rick. I pray his wife, children and siblings find comfort in the outpouring of stories and love they will be treated to in the coming days. Godspeed!

Kathy Hanlon
3 years ago

I have a heavy heart!!! Thinking of you!

Bill Duval
3 years ago

Rick was a real professional. I came to know Rick through officiating soccer. Over the many years that he was a member of the Vermont Soccer Officials Association, he and I worked several games together. He was an excellent official, but what I remember most were our conversations, before and after the games. He always had an intensity that was moderated by a smile and a quick observation. Also, during the off-season, I would meet up with him at an educational conference and the conversation would go from soccer to school and back, always with that grin. Rick was what every parent should want for a person working with our youth. He was prepared, he was professional, he was a class act.

Jim Marshia
3 years ago

I had the privilege to officiate soccer with Rick since 1982. His professional demeanor and work effort are true attributes to his memory. My deepest sympathy to Rick’s family. Respectfully, Jim Marshia

Gail and Tim Greaves
3 years ago

We are very sorry to hear of Rick’s sudden passing. As a kid he was always anxious to tell my Dad a few of his newly acquired jokes since he was a jokester too. It was great entertainment! Please accept our deepest sympathy.

Adam Trombly
3 years ago

I was a student of Rick’s back in the late 90’s at Mt. Abraham. He was one of my favorite teachers. He was one of those teachers that actually got to know his students and show a true interest in their lives. He made going to school that more much worth it. Fast forward 15 years and I ended up working with him at Vermont Teddy Bear every Christmas season. I had the pleasure of speaking with him on a regular basis at work. He still showed the same interest in you as he did back in school. Just a pleasure to talk to. Rick will be greatly missed and I am so sorry for your loss.

Debera Brown Blakeslee
3 years ago

Oh, my! How unexpected and sad. My sympathies and prayers are with his family, especially you, Laurie, a classmate.

Robert Atherton
3 years ago

He was a great teacher and always asked me how I was doing when I saw him.

Zim Pickens
3 years ago

I am sad to hear of the sudden passing of Mr. Desorda (or “Mr. D” as he was often called). For me, he was one of the teachers who instilled a love of learning and a desire to challenge myself to do my best work. The high school teachers who brought their best to the job inspired me to become a teacher because I realized what a difference it makes for the minds of young people. I have often remembered Rick with gratitude as I have continued along my own journey, first as an elementary school teacher and now as a Ph.D candidate (and hopefully as a college professor some day). The tears in my eyes speak to how much of an impact a kind teacher makes in a person’s life. Best wishes to another of my teachers who always made me want to excel. Sandy, this must be heart wrenching time. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Zim

3 years ago

My sincerest condolences. Rick was a wonderful, kind, funny person who positively affected so many people.

April Banach
3 years ago

Mr Desorta was a very kind customer of ours at Heffernan Inspection and repair. Our sincere condolences to all of Ricks family.

James Nye
3 years ago

I am so sorry to hear of his passing. I was far from the example of a great student, but Mr. Desorda never let that stop him from pushing me to do more and better work. I still remember him telling me one day that I was going to be a great teacher. I thought he was insane, I’d never want to deal with students like me. 10 years later and I began teaching college classes. To this day, I don’t know what he saw in me to make him say that, but I always think back to that conversation and smile. He was one of the great teachers I had and I’m thankful for it every day!

Karen (Spazek) Song
3 years ago

Mr. Desorda sparked my love of the Social Sciences. While he knew me, I was a weak student. Still, he taught his classes in a manner that engaged me and sparked my love for learning. I wish that I could let him know that I earned my doctorate last month and that he had a part in that process.

Liz Graham
3 years ago

To Sandy, Bill, Joe and Jim,
My thoughts and prayers are with you. We are all mourning with you. Rick was an amazing teacher and had a personality you could never forget. I was in his class in 1998. I was a kid who knew history was something I loved, but didn’t know how much until I was in his American Studies class. I went on to graduate with a degree in History, Society & Culture and Education. He and Greg Clark were my idiols through my teen years. Rick, you will be missed. Love to everyone who has been touched by this amazing teacher, friend and person.

Brian & Pam Ladeau
3 years ago

Sandy, Sons. Laurie, Cindi and All of Rick’s Family……It is with great sadness that we send our heartfelt condolences.
Rick was such a warm, gentle man who always had a smile whenever we saw him. He will be greatly missed by all
who knew him. May you take comfort in knowing how much he was loved and respected.

Patty Laberge Hathaway
3 years ago

I was extremely saddened when my Aunt Bev called me to let me know about Rick’s passing. Although I don’t think our paths have crossed since college, I have nothing but very fond memories of Rick. He remains one of the kindest, sincere, and funniest people I have ever known. My deepest sympathies are extended to his family. He was a great person.

Frank Martel
3 years ago

My Condolences to Sandy and Rick’s childlren, relatives, friends and students.
Rick Desorda was a people person. When talking to him, you always had his full attention. I have known Rick since 1981 when he became a member of Vermont Soccer Officials Association. He had officiated baseball for a number of years and became an excellent soccer official. When calling Rick to do a game he was always willing and showed excitement in being asked. The last soccer game Rick officiated was as an assistant referee at South Burlington High school where CVU girls were in a playoff game against Rutland.
As usual Rick was there early and eager to help. Even though Rick couldn’t run as fast as in the past, you always knew he would give you his maximum effort. He always had positive things to say about other officials and made other officials feel good about refereeing with him. Of course, when calling Rick the conversation would sometimes have to be cut short because he loved to talk. Rick just loved to socialize and would look forward to car rides with Dennis Filion, Spencer Noble, Art Thompson, Carol Weston and many other officials. From comments read about Rick, he was a special teacher who knew that involving students in their learning was the most effective way to teach. I know that he will be missed in the Bristol community and I will miss officiating, assigning, and talking with Rick.
Frank Martel
Soccer Assignor

Brian Chandler
3 years ago

My condolences to the entire Desorda family. Rick was an amazing man and I learned a great deal from him. He so enjoyed the time I had with as a player on his Varsity basketball team, to a student in his American Studies class. He also was a mentor to me when I was trying my hand at officiating high school soccer. Our paths crossed many times as well as he would umpire one of the baseball games I was coaching, one of which was at Mt. Abe. I smile when I think of Rick and I know others join me in that. He will be forever missed.

Brown Mcclay Funeral Homes